Summary: District Twelve is the name for an incredulously controlling, religious cult. Once a year, 1 boy and 1 girl are reaped to be sacrificed to the cult's god. Dark fic.

Out of all of my stories (I usually overrate them), this story is the most deserving of the 'M' rating. It is imperative that it is understood that this story is meant for people that can handle mature themes. Also, this story has a made up religion in it, and I tried to not base it off of any existing religion. So if the religion is similar to you religion, I'm sorry I mean no offense. This is all for the purpose of the fanfic.

Chapter 1: What Lies Beneath

The border of District Twelve is always redolent of the smell of putrid flesh. Thirty feet high, wooden walls line all of Twelve. Only those who are deemed appropriate are allowed to venture beyond the walls; anyone, that weren't the chosen few, who got caught trying to go over the walls would receive lashings. Usually when lashings are given out, the amount a person receives depends on their age. The base number is five. That number is added to twice the amount of a person's age. I am sixteen years old, if I were to get into trouble I would receive thirty-seven lashings. Obedience is survival.

I scrunch up my nose in reaction to the particles of decomposing skin, muscles, and bone attach to my nose. I glance upward and glare at the perpetrators. Distorted bodies lurch out in abnormal directions, the twisted joints coil around the wooden spikes erecting from the fence, and the shrunken organs are drying out in the son - they are begging the birds devour them, and put them out of their shame and misery. Besides all of the horrific ways the bodies are warped, the worst thing about them are their faces. Agony. Agony is displayed clearly across the sunken in faces, clearly displaying the final feelings they felt before death found them. There, all the past sacrifices, that haven't already been engulfed by wild animals, are impaled by sharp, wooden spears that jut out from the wall.

The lucky ones died fast.

Every year, one boy and one girl, between the ages of eight and eighteen, must be reaped as the honored oblation for the annual ritual. Year after year, we have been taught about how our ancestors had rebelled against Seriphra, our god, and she punished everyone. Seriphra was planning on destroying our entire race, but our ancestors pleaded that she forgive them. In the end, she forgave them under one condition: District Twelve must offer up one boy and one girl as a sacrifice to her. Only then, will her thirst for human blood be appeased. After the first time the children were sacrificed, the District didn't do it again the following year - this resulted in a drought, and many people died from starvation. Since that occurrence, the ceremony had been fortified as tradition.

If a child is reaped, their family rejoices. It is considered to be an illustrious privilege to be chosen as the offering - offerings are believed to become in contact with god, the moment between life and death. Their dead bodies are considered sacred, here, they are bathed in blossom scented water, and then they are placed on top of the barrier. It is also believed that in placing them there, that their souls will ward off any evil spirits that are trying to invade our community.

When a female child is born, District Twelve's patriarchs will inspect the baby, and then decide whether or not the girl will be apart of the nuptial category or the harvest category. Both are terrible in their own ways.

The fortunate thing about being picked to be apart of the nuptial category is that the girl will be ineligible for the yearly reaping; despite that, that is where the fortune ends. Those girls will be wedded off, between the ages of twelve and seventeen, to men who are usually twice or trice their age. Neither do they have a choice in who they marry, nor do the parents. The leaders of the community decide everything. Here is the real terror, the teachings and the belief of this cult belittle women in every way. I am a female that belongs to a misogynistic persuasion. The men have absolute control over those ill-fated girls. It isn't unusual for a girl from the nuptial group, who had just been recently married, to visit my mother to help heal vaginal tearing and disfiguration. The only purpose for the nuptial group is to bare children, and nothing more. If one of the girls is found to be infertile, she will normally be taken to the coition habitation.

The coition habitation is a horrible place where men can spend their hard earned money on enslaved prostitutes. The really talented coition girls can earn favor with some men, and they can be bought from the habitation as a live-in mistress. Never does she, or the man's current wife, have a say in the transaction. To my enormous dismay, my younger sister, Primrose Everdeen, was selected to be apart of this group.

My mother is one of the community's healers. She is probably one of the only women here that are actually partially respected. She and several other healers work in a medium-sized building that functions as a hospital. She repairs the wounds that the men receive from hunting, working, and fighting. When a man brings a woman to her, she is allowed to heal her; nonetheless, my mom runs an illegal business, at her house, where battered women can come to get medical attention. I'm scared, everyday, about her becoming discovered. I honestly do not know what would happen to her.

The group of girls, in the harvest group, are eligible for the annual reaping. This is the category that I belong to. Between the age of zero and six, I am raised as just how the nuptial girls are raised. After my sixth birthday, I am put on a strict diet of fruits, vegetables, and water. We are not allowed to consume anything else, especially meat. They call it the 'purifying of the body.' The boys also have to follow the diet, except they are required to eat meat once a month and drink milk once a week. This is so in the future, if they aren't reaped, the will still have strong bodies. If the girl never gets reaped, she will be wedded off (after she turns nineteen) to an unknown man.

The male survivors of the reaping, will be expected to work on the farms, the mines, or with the livestock. All of them must take part in self-defense training, incase the community is ever attacked. After a boy has grown into a man, and has worked a significant amount, he will be paired up with a young girl. With her, he will create a family.

Fornication is unheard of for the nuptial group of girls, but it isn't rare for the harvest girls to have premarital sex. In fact, with all of the hormones, rape, and desperation, it is uncommon for those girls to stay virgins before marriage. I haven't had sex even though it's very rampant here.

This is District Twelve. This is my life. The only life I know; the only life I will ever know.

I snap my head around, when I hear the church bell chime throughout Twelve. It is time for the weekly youth gathering. I sprint as fast as I can away from the wall, and into the town's square. I do not want to be late; I can and will be punished if I am late. My vision is impaired from the speed that I'm going, and I smack right into the chest of a boy - neither of us fell to the ground.

I force myself to tilt my head down in an act of submission, I truly hate doing this. "Sorry," I mutter.

It doesn't matter whether or not this boy is older than me or not, just the fact that he's born with a penis gives him automatic authority over me.

"Don't be," a familiar voice says with nervousness. "It was my fault. I wasn't watching where I was walking."

I let my eyes look up and make eye contact with Peeta Mellark. Most boys from the community, love to exercise their natural-born dominance. They probably would have forced me to beg for forgiveness, or something humiliating. Well, not Mellark. I don't know what happened to him when he was born or what his mother did when she was pregnant with him, but he is very different from all the other boys. I can't remember when the last time he abused his authority over a girl. Because of that, he is the center of many girl's secret crushes. Crushes greatly are discouraged - they run a risk in creating conflict if two people begin to like each other, but they will eventually have to wed someone else.

"No, no. I was running and I should have been more alert," I don't mind apologizing to him (as much), because I know he doesn't think that he is entitled to my submission.

Peeta, like my mother, is a specialist. He is a baker, and if he never gets reaped, he will become a full time baker.

"Is anything wrong here?" An older man asks us as he walks over to us.

I realize that we haven't moved into our designated areas yet, so people will start to get suspicious. This is the situation where if Peeta were any other boy, he would rat me out door crashing into him, and then he will be allowed to give me a lashing or two.

"Oh, no, nothing's wrong. When I was walking, I tripped over a few rocks, and she happened to be next to me so she helped me up," Peeta smoothly lies.

The man easily buys into the lie, and gives a knowing nod of the head. "Ok, well you kids better get on over there, gathering is about to start."

We don't make the man ask us twice, together we walk into a circle of our community's local youth. District Twelve has several different gatherings for different age groups. My gathering is for the age group of fourteen to eighteen.

Gatherings are, well, exactly how they sound. It's an opportunity, that is mandatory, for people in the community to socialize with other people around their age. For today's gathering, we are going to prepare ourselves for next week's sacrifice. Every other month, as a group, we sacrifice an animal to our god. For now, we are going to discuss what type of animal it will be, and how it will be killed.

The gathering leader, Jarrop Slenk, is an older man. He has brown hair that is speckled with gray, and his forehead wrinkles display the years he has lived. He is sitting on a stool with all thirty-nine of us encircling him.

"Any ideas on how how we should terminate the sheep? You may be as creative as you wish," Jarrop asks to no one inparticular.

There are random shout from the boys like, "Keep it classic, burn it," "I say we hang it upside down, and then snap it's neck," and "We should drown it in its own blood!"

Girls rarely took part in giving suggestions because they were usually ignored, and they also had to be called upon to say anything.

"This is always the worst part for me," Peeta whispers to me after he carefully makes sure no one is listening.

Gentle-mannered Peeta has always paled whenever the sacrificial gatherings come around.

I subtly nod my head in agreement with him; I don't dare risk the chance of being overheard.

"I guess I just have to suck it up, and pretend that I enjoy what's going on," he mutters sadly.

Yeah, we all do. I think to myself. We all do.

"I haven't healed yet! No! Please don't! Don't-"

"Unh! Huhh ehuhh…Eunh! Shit, you are so-"

"Grandpa, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to disturb you. Please don't hit-"

As Peeta and I walk by a residential area, we hear the normal conversations being shouted from the houses that we pass by. We try to walk by quickly, neither of us wants to know what's happening in each home. After the gathering, the two of us decided to unwind by taking a swim in one of the ponds.

District Twelve is set up like this: The town square is in the center, the shops are around it, the sketchier shops are around them, the schools are around them, the leaders' houses are around them, several layers of residential houses are around them, work places are around them, grass is then around them, several ponds circle around it, and then farms circle around everything. Basically, the entire town is shaped like a circle.

Since Peeta lives inside the town, we had stopped by his house first. Now, we are going to my house. We reach my house, and I'm thankful that no one is home when we walk into it. I don't need any lectures from my mom about being with a boy, and Peeta no less. She doesn't like it when I associate myself with the 'townies,' yet she has more animosity against Peeta then any other teen from town. I don't understand why; if anything, I thought she would like him more than other boys since the chance of him raping me is very slim.

"My stuff is in that room," I say pointing to one of the closed doors in the house. "I'll be right back."

Peeta takes a seat on our battered couch as I head into my room, and shut my door. I undress from my dark green pants and my cream colored shirt. I then change into a pair of shorts and a tank top. When I'm done, I walk out of my room, and Peeta and I walk out of my house. We try to make our way to the pond with hearing the minimal amount of the horrific screams, yet we still hear many of them. I see Peeta gulp as we pass a brown house, and I look at where he's gaping at. I swallow hard when I see blood drip from a hand print on a window, the blood looks fresh. This is not an uncommon sight.

"Come on, lets keep moving," he says softly. I can tell that he doesn't want to see it anymore than I do.

When we finish our nightmare inducing walk, we finally arrive at a pond. At the moment, we are the only people at the pond, and I am thankful for that. My friend, Madge, said that she will be meeting us here later in the day.

"Ready to jump in?" he asks me while he takes off his shirt.

"Yeah, lets go," I say.

We saunter up to the edge of the pond, and then we jump into it - we fully submerge our head. I break the surface, I take an urgent breath of air, and I am concerned when Peeta doesn't come back up. I swim in a small circle, looking for him, but finding him in this murky water would be impossible. All the sudden, my body is pulled under water. My intuition tells me to start thrashing madly, and I listen to it. I then feel the hand release my ankle, and then hands grab unto my waist, pulling me up. When my head is above the water's surface, I see Peeta smiling teasingly at me.

Oh it is on.

I kick up my legs, propelling my body upward, and then my hands come down on the top of his head.

"Gotcha!" I yell just before I dunk him.

I allow him to emerge back up, and I smirk at him when he gasps for air.

"Truce?" He asks, his hand extended in front of him.

I take his hand in my hand and I shake it, "Truce"

We enjoy each other's company for an hour and a half, then several teenage boys strut up to the pond, and prepare themselves to swim. I notice that one of the boys is a guy named Cefren, and I become nervous because he is infamous for being a trouble maker. I can tell that Peeta isn't happy either from the way the his upper body tenses up.

"Katniss, we should probably leave," he silently suggests to me.

I couldn't agree more. I have heard a few rumors from some girls about how he is fond of ravishing defenseless girls. When Peeta cautiously places his body between me and Cefron (even though he's thirty-five away from us), I realize that Peeta has also heard about the rumors.

"Yeah, I think that's a good idea," I agree with him. "Madge hasn't showed up yet, so I don't think that she will be coming today."

"I guessed that. Alright, lets swim over there," he says, pointing off to the left. "We can get out of the pond from that edge."

He doesn't say it, but we both know that he's trying to map our a route that will come in the least amount of contact with the boys.

"You left your shirt over there," I remind him.

Peeta gives me a conflicting look and pleadingly says, "Yeah, I know, but I really think that it's a good idea to exit over there. And it's just a shirt, it's not worth that much."

I don't argue with him anymore, and we both silently swim over to the left. I don't see the point in swimming silently, because I know that they have already seen us; basically, they would have to be blind not to notice us.

"Shit," I hear Peeta say under his breath. I repeat what he says.

The three delinquents slink there way over to the left, where we are swimming to.

"Katniss, please, no matter what happens, stay behind me," Peeta begs.

"Peeta," I whine, my tone of my voice has greatly been raised.

"No, Katniss. I hate doing this, you know I do, but I'm going to utilize my right over you. You must stay behind me. I don't care what you say."

I know exactly what Peeta is doing, and I don't like it. Since guys have authority over girls, he can command me to do something, and if another guy tells me to do something that conflicts with Peeta's previous command, I don't have to do it. This also means that if he pisses off those boys, he might get beaten up.


"I won't hear it," he says, interrupting me. "Listen, if you don't do as I say," he almost whimpers, "you could get... violated."

"Peeta, they will attack you!" I say in a hushed frenzy.

"Trust me, a broken bone or two is much better than the alternative."

Peeta looks so torn up from what he know is about to happen, and I know that my complaining only stresses him out more. Even if he tries to stand up for me, there is no way of knowing if I'll still end up getting assaulted or not.

"Ok, fine. But no heroic antics, please?" I comply.

"Oh, there is nothing heroic about getting myself knocked unconscious," he says disgustedly. "God, why do we have to live in such shit conditions? We should be able to take a swim without the worry of getting attacked!"

If the leaders, or almost anyone aside from me, heard what Peeta had just said, he would be whipped a good sixty-seventy times. Any words against the community is forbidden, and is punished harshly; however, I completely agree with him.

The dreaded moment is upon us. We have reached the edge of the pond, and now we must leave our temporarily safe haven.

"Hi, Peeta," Cefren says cockily. He doesn't even attempt to acknowledge my presence.

"Cefren," Peeta says rigidly.

"How was your swim?" Cefren asks.

"It was good, a little cold, but still nice," Peeta replies. "Well nice talking with you, but we really have to get going."

Without asking, Peeta grabs my hand, from behind, and he starts to lead me away.

"Wait," Cefren calls out to us.

We both stiffen up and rotate our bodies around.

"Yeah?" Peeta questions.

"You forgot your shirt, Mellark," Cefren tosses his shirt to Peeta, and he catches it.

"Thanks," Peeta says emotionlessly.

"See you around," Cefren creepily tells us. "Oh, and Peeta," he calls out again when we start to walk away, "you better keep your eyes on that girl. With a beauty like her, I wouldn't be surprised if someone wanted to, I don't know, fuck her. Bye."

When we are out of eye shot from the boys, Peeta breaks into a run, and I have to run too since his hand his still firmly wrapped around mine. We stop to catch our breath as soon as we enter the outer-most layer of the residential area.

"I am so sorry!" he blurts out suddenly.

"W-what?" I am taken by surprise.

"I never wanted to, but I panicked. I'm sorry for telling you what to do," he explains.

"Oh. It's ok. I know you only do it when you think it's absolutely necessary," I let him know.

"I know, but still, I am sorry."

"Peeta, lets not kid ourselves, if you hadn't been there with me, I'd be in huge trouble. So thank you. Thank you for not leaving me," I express gratefully.

"You do know that I would never leave you, right?"

"Of course," I answer.

Once we catch our breath, we walk in a comfortable pace to my house. When we get to the front of my house, I notice that all the blinds are pulled tightly shut. Something is wrong.

"Katniss, are you ok?" He questions me, his voice ripe with concern.

"Yeah I'm fine. I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Wouldn't miss it," he says.

I wait until I can no longer see Peeta on my street before I go into my house. When I step inside, I am stopped dead in my tracks. There, I see Madge lying on our wooden table, and my mom is next to her mixing up a salve. Madge is unconscious, and covered in abrasions.

I repeat Peeta's words in my mind. Why do we have to live in such shit conditions?

Ok that's the end of chapter one. This chapter wasn't too eventful. I wanted it to serve more as an explanation of what the cult is like, and how people are treated. What did you think? Please, please review!